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Agreement between two or more parties that creates for each party a duty to do something (e.g., to provide goods at a certain price according to a specified schedule) or a duty not to do something (e.g., to divulge an employer's trade secrets or financial status to third parties). A party's failure to honour a contract allows the other party or parties to bring an action for damages in a court of law, though arbitration may also be pursued in an effort to keep the matter confidential. In order to be valid, a contract must be entered into both willingly and freely. A contract that violates this principle, including one made with a legal minor or a person deemed mentally incompetent, may be declared unenforceable. A contract also must have a lawful objective.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on contract, visit Britannica.com.